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Alaskan Indians (Russian Аляс;кинский Индийский, Alyaskinskiy Indiyskiy) colloquially refereed to as Indians (Russian: Индийский, Indiyskiy) are the indigenous people of the Alaskan Democratic Republic . Alaskan Indians first arrived 18,000 years ago as part of the Bering Land Bridge migration from Asia and they are the demographic majority in four governates ,Aleutia, Kodiak, Queen Charlotte Islands and the Far North. Alaskan Indians are present in all governates of the country. Many European and Asian Alaskans have at least partial Indian heritage. Approximately fifty tribes have legal status by the federal government, according to the 2007 census five percent of Alaskans are Indians.
The use of the word Indiyskiy (Indians) in reference to Indigenous peoples of the Americas descends from early Russian knowledge of Christopher Columbus's expeditions. As a broad term for anyone natively east of the Bering Strait, many early pioneers viewed Alaskan Indians as the Siberian and Turkish people commonplace in Russian Eurasia. Presently there is a movement from Indians and Academics for official records to change terms to simply "original nations" or "aborigines" but this has not occurred. Opposition to a possible new name for Alaskan Indians say this would rob of Alaskan Indians of their identity as the natives of Alaska despite Indian statements to the contrary.
Alaska's Indians are diverse in dozens of language families and Ethnic groups. For purposes of anthropology and historiography they are commonly put into five cultural zones by Alaskan and Russian experts. Examples are placed in parentheses but they by no means denote every single tribe in their respective categories.
Arctic (Inuipat, Aleut, Alutiiq)
Interior Athabaskan (Na'dene)
Maritime Temperate group (Tlingit, Haida, Shimashan)
Sonoran Chaparral (Pomo)
Upon the first contact between Russians and Alaskan Indians in 1741 there would have at least half a million people in the whole territory that is now Alaska. Societies and economies varied greatly between the different native tribes, however they were all remarkable for their reluctance to use agriculture compared to natives in Mexico and the Eastern United States. Fishing was the most common activity in many tribes with landlocked natives relying on hunter gathering. Tribes farther south tended to have more complex rituals and society due to having more resources, throughout the country there was generally as system of coastal natives dominating interior peoples. Epidemics killed many natives in almost all contacts between Russians and Indians. Relations between Russians and natives varied between violence and cooperation, native Tlingit people almost drove Russians away in 1804.In The first forty years of actual colonization (1780-1820) Russians were reliant upon native peoples, particularly Aleuts as a colonial workforce. Until the Russo-Spanish war many natives in the territory claimed by Russia were unknown to Europeans.
Cooperation in the South and Violence in the North
As larger scale Russian settlement of Alaska began after 1810 relations between Indians and colonists varied greatly between different areas of Russian Alaska. Southern Alaskan territories in Oregon and Sonora enjoyed peaceful coexistence and cohabitation but there was war in territories father north.
In early Fort Ross, Elizabeth Kuskova wife, of Russian American company administrator Ivan Kuskova bridged the colony with the Pomo people. Elizabeth taught herself the Pomo language and became the chief translator between the natives and the colonists. Often visiting Pomo villages she learned about the land and what could be grown contributing to the success of Fort Ross as a breadbasket. Elizabeth came to admire the native peoples for their cohabitation with the natural world and encouraged good treatment of the Pomo by her husband's associates. She set up a Russian Orthodox School that taught Russian language to the Pomo.
The onset of war with Spain sparked tensions between the settlers and Chaparral Indians as incoming soldiers did not respect earlier treaties, often stealing food and supplies for the war effort. After the war the increasingly pressured Pomo had to assimilate into colonial society, many taking on Russian names and customs. Other Pomo however, resisted and fled into the Rocky Mountains. In 1831 on orders of the administrator of the Russian American Company a plot of reserved land for the Pomo was granted to be accompanied by secular advisers and Orthodox priests. While more open to ethnic Europeans today the reserved land continues to hold autonomous status within the governate of Sonora.
Despite insistence by several czars for good treatment of native peoples there were several outbreaks of violence in North Alaska. The Tlingit as the traditional center of power in the region were the most resistant to colonization. Even after 1804 eviction of Tlingit from New Archangel colonies in Tongass and Yakut were always on the the defensive from annual attacks from the prosperous Tlingit.
Reluctant to station a permanent garrison of regular soldiers the overextended Russian Empire sent a troupe of Cossacks to subjugate Indian raiders in 1825. What was expected to be a short term conflict resembling the quick suppression of natives in Siberia became a conflict that persisted for thirty years. Against Europeans the Tlingit used night attacks, bronze weapons and rifles bought from British traders. After 1830 the Tlingit learned how to fight on horseback against Cossacks. Short summers and Russian ignorance of the terrain gave the Tlingit the upper hand. In the long term the Tlingit were disrupted by other Indians that had maintained a subordinate relationship with them for thousands of years.
Many Athabaskan peoples saw Russian colonization as a way to escape traditional Tlingit domination Missions from the Russian Orthodox Church produced the first settlements of Alaska's interior, behaving similarity to the Spanish Californian missions of the 1700's .The presence of the missions and Russian priests turned local violence into a religious war against the shamanism of the Tlingit. The continuance and cost of of the war led to Russian authorities seizing control of the colonies from the Russian American Company.
Intensive warfare caused quarreling Tlingit peoples to unify as a confederation. Colonists and indians increasingly desperate resorted to winter attacks. Angered by a failed ceasefire Tlingit warriors massacred four hundred Christian Athabaskans at the St.Cyril mission on Christmas 1842. Cossacks reacted with a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the succeeding years that continued to strain Cossack-Indian relations long after the war. Nonetheless the Tinglit continued to resist striking isolated communities before dissipating into unreachable wilderness
Eventually settlers poisoned several rivers to deprive Tlingit of their traditional fishing stocks to force an open field battle for food-supplies. In 1856 the battle of Blood Fields (Russian: Krove Pole) resulted in a stalemate but tactical Russian victory. With the prospect of famine the Tlingit Confederation in Sitka gave a conditional surrender to the Russian American Krai where they converted to Christianity but received immunizations for small pox and tribal autonomy in return.
Under Imperial Authorities
After 1860 the colonists came to impose their way of life on all Indians residing within the territory that is today Alaska. For Indians life varied greatly depending on which tribe they were a part. The colonial authorities enforced a system of casts between tribes. Those such as the Aleuts were semi Russianized and began to cluster in neighborhoods of port such cities such as New Arkhangelsk, leading to the birth of a unique Slavic-Indian culture that survives to this day. During the reign of Czar Alexander II the first modern Alaskan literature from Indians
In Southern Alaska native Alaskans increasingly choose to either to live in the Somona reserve, to integrate with Ukrainian colonists as Christians or to live alongside Asian Alaskan as Buddhists. The populations of native Alaskans which had already been decimated by colonization began to recover at this time.
The 1860's were a turning point for the Indian tribes which had not yet been encountered by any Europeans. Pioneers that ventured to Arctic Coast and the Rocky Mountains were the first to meet Indians in these areas which were mostly from the Inuit and Tlingit language families. Pioneers often stayed only temporarily,other married or kidnapped Indian women. Pioneers were followed by government teams of surveyors and Cossacks to map out the extent of Russian American lands. Like others they were subject to terrible epidemics. Because the lands were inhospitable to Europeans the Inuit and Yukon Indians.